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Complete Computer Security Includes Both Cyber and Physical Safeguards
(Editor's note: The following message was written by Steven Lau of NERSC's Networking and Computer Security Group.)

Physical security is an often-overlooked aspect of computer security. Although one would like to believe that their offices and work areas are secure areas free from theft and unauthorized use, the reality is that they are not.

Unattended electronic devices, such as computers, laptops, PDAs and cell phones can be easily stolen or used without your permission or realization. In numerous instances, incidents of theft and unauthorized use have occurred during working hours when an employee "walked away for a few minutes".

To deter unauthorized use of your systems while you are away, use screen savers with password locking enabled. Many systems are now configurable to automatically lock your screen after idling a few minutes. Additionally, locking your office door at night and when you leave for extended periods of time deters both theft and unauthorized use. Use lockdown cables whenever possible to add additional protection against theft.

The Lab voice mail system allows you to enable a security code that deters others from accessing your voice mail without your knowledge. To enable or change your security code, press 1-6 to select Mailbox options and then 2 for the Security Code option. Follow the instructions to enable or change your security code.

Always keep track of portable electronic devices such as PDAs, laptops and cell phones. These are "high profit/low risk" items for would-be thieves and are therefore attractive.

When traveling, pay particular attention to keeping track of your electronic devices when going through security screening. Airports have reported a significant increase in the theft of electronic devices at security checkpoints.

Some suggestions on deterring theft at security checkpoints:

  1. Place a sticker or some other distinguishing emblem on the cover of your laptop or other electronic devices to make it easily identifiable from a distance.
  2. Don't place your electronic devices onto the conveyor belt until you are just about to walk through the metal detector.
  3. If you are delayed for a secondary screening, maintain eye contact with your personal belongings and electronic devices.

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